Marlins happy to have added depth at Meetings

Marlins happy to have added depth at Meetings

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- From the moment they arrived on Sunday, the Marlins approached the Winter Meetings with a single-minded focus. They were determined to always be closing.

By the time they exited on Thursday, they were successful in closing deals on left-hander Jeff Locke, backup catcher A.J. Ellis and reliever Dustin McGowan. What they have yet to accomplish is solidifying the back end of their bullpen.

That search is ongoing, with Kenley Jansen as their big-splash target. Miami has a five-year offer on the table, believed to be in the $80 million range.

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As fallback options, Miami is considering Koji Uehara, Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa.

More offseason work remains to be done, but the Marlins didn't walk away from the Winter Meetings empty-handed.

"We're excited about the possibility of adding a catcher we think fits with everything we're trying to build," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "We're happy to add starter depth, and bringing back Dustin McGowan, who was very effective in our bullpen and gives us another piece that lengthens out that 'pen and gives us a chance to shorten the game."

Ellis' leadership for Marlins

Locke, Ellis and McGowan each reached agreement on a one-year deal, and each deal will become official after the players complete their physicals.

Locke, 29, will make $3 million, and he projects as either the fourth or fifth starter. An All-Star with the Pirates in 2013, Locke becomes the third lefty in the rotation, joining Wei-Yin Chen and Adam Conley.

Ellis reunites with Miami manager Don Mattingly. The two were previously together with the Dodgers. Ellis will back up J.T. Realmuto, and he replaces Jeff Mathis, who signed with the D-backs before the Winter Meetings.

McGowan, 34, returns to the Marlins. He made the club in 2016 as a non-roster invitee, and he became a free agent after the season. Now he has a guaranteed contract, and will be a long-reliever candidate.

Deals done
Reached agreement, pending physicals, on free agents Locke ($3 million), Ellis ($2.5 million) and McGowan.

Goals accomplished
For much of the Meetings, the Marlins pursued their ultimate goal -- to bolster the back end of the bullpen. They pushed hard for Aroldis Chapman, who agreed with the Yankees on a five-year, $86 million deal. Jansen is still possible. Coming to terms with Locke, Ellis and McGowan addressed three areas of need.

Unfinished business
More groundwork was done at the Meetings in the quest for bullpen depth, and that will be ongoing throughout the month, even if some of the big free agents come off the board. There are recently non-tendered pitchers available, as well as experienced relievers looking for opportunities. A right-handed bat off the bench also is on the "to do" list. The focus for a hitter, however, will come after Miami fills its pitching needs. Then there is Jose Urena. The hard-throwing right-hander is out of options, meaning he has to either make the Opening Day roster or face the possibility of being placed on waivers. Trading Urena is possible.

Rule 5 Draft
The Marlins didn't make a pick and the organization didn't lose a player in the MLB Phase of the Draft. Once Miami's prime target came off the board, the organization opted to pass on a big league pick.

The Marlins were hopeful of landing right-hander Justin Haley from the Red Sox system. Miami had the 14th pick, but the Angels, selecting 10th, grabbed Haley.

"This was the guy we wanted to take," said Marc DelPiano, Marlins vice president of player development. "We were going to take Haley."

In the Triple-A Phase, they selected outfielder Cal Towey off the Angels' Double-A roster in the first round. In the second round, they took lefty reliever Nick Maronde off Cleveland's Double-A roster, and second baseman Alex Yarbrough was taken in the third round from the Angels' system.

Miami lost right-hander Jose Adames, the club's 29th-ranked prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, to the Reds in the first round of the Triple-A Phase. Also in the first round, right-hander Sean Donatello was taken by the Tigers, and right-hander Matt Ramsey was selected by the Angels in round two.

GM's bottom line
"I don't think we're done trying to add depth to this team. There are still a number of players available on the market that we'll continue to stay in touch with and explore to see if there might be an opportunity to continue to add depth." -- Hill

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.